‘Politically-sophisticated network’ tried to influence Delhi polls: Sacked Facebook employee

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |

Updated: September 15, 2020 10:20:52 am

arvind kejriwal swearing in, arvind kejriwal swearing in live updates, arvind kejriwal oath ceremony, delhi cm arvind kejriwal, arvind kejriwal, delhi assembly election results, delhi election results, delhi police, delhi city newsDelhi CM and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal (C) addreses supporters after party’s victory in the State Assembly polls, at AAP office in New Delhi, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Kejriwal’s wife Sunita, daughter Harshita and son Pulkit are also seen. (PTI Photo/Manvender Vashist)

A former Facebook data scientist has accused the social media platform of dragging its feet or, in some instances, ignoring evidence that its platform was being manipulated by fake accounts to influence elections in countries including India, Ukraine, Spain, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

In a 6,600-word internal memo, written by former Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang on her last day at the company, and obtained by BuzzFeed News, the Delhi Assembly election that took place in February this year finds mention. Zhang claimed she had worked hard to remove “a politically-sophisticated network of more than a thousand actors working to influence” the Delhi polls. However, she did not disclose the political affiliation of the malicious network. According to BuzzFeed News, Facebook never publicly disclosed this network or that it had taken it down.

Responding to the story, Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois said in a statement: “We’ve built specialized teams, working with leading experts, to stop bad actors from abusing our systems, resulting in the removal of more than 100 networks for coordinated inauthentic behavior.

“It’s highly involved work that these teams do as their full-time remit. Working against coordinated inauthentic behavior is our priority, but we’re also addressing the problems of spam and fake engagement. We investigate each issue carefully, including those that Ms. Zhang raises, before we take action or go out and make claims publicly as a company.”

Zhang was allegedly told by Facebook that “human resources are limited” when she asked the company to do more in terms of countering those trying to influence elections. Zhang was fired this month an she turned down a $64,000 severance package from Facebook to avoid signing a nondisparagement agreement, BuzzFeed News reported.

In August, The Wall Street Journal has reported that Facebook’s top public policy executive in India “opposed applying hate-speech rules” to at least four individuals and groups linked with the BJP despite the fact that they were “flagged internally for promoting or participating in violence.”

However, the BJP hitback saying the social media platform is biased against the ruling party.

Referring to “credible media reports”, Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that the “Facebook India team, right from the India Managing Director to other senior officials, is dominated by people who belong to a particular political belief. People from this political predisposition have been overwhelmingly defeated…in successive free and fair elections. After having lost all democratic legitimacy, they are trying to discredit India’s democratic process by dominating the decision-making apparatus of important social media platforms”.

Prasad also raised “serious concerns” that the Facebook India management had deleted pages and “reduced” the reach of “right-of-centre ideology” supporters before the 2019 general elections.

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